Cooter and Rappoport on the Normative: John B. Davis

Economics and Philosophy 6 (1):139-146 (1990)

Abstract
In a recent examination of the origins of ordinal utility theory in neoclassical economics, Robert D. Cooter and Peter Rappoport argue that the ordinalist revolution of the 1930s, after which most economists abandoned interpersonal utility comparisons as normative and unscientific, constituted neither unambiguous progress in economic science nor the abandonment of normative theorizing, as many economists and historians of economic thought have generally believed. Rather, the widespread acceptance of ordinalism, with its focus on Pareto optimality, simply represented the emergence of a new neoclassical research agenda that, on the one hand, defined economics differently than had the material welfare theorists of the cardinal utility school and, on the other, adopted a positivist methodology in contrast to the less restrictive empiricism of the cardinalists.
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DOI 10.1017/S0266267100000687
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